Janis L. Abkowitz, MD
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
University of Washington School of Medicine
Hematology, Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPN), marrow failure syndromes
I enjoy getting to know my patients and their families, solving difficult diagnostic problems and designing personalized treatment strategies.”
What do you want patients to know about you?
My passion for combining science with clinical medicine drives the work I do every day — as a doctor, researcher and educator. When you come to SCCA for care, it’s important to me to be attentive not only to your medical needs but to who you are as a person. Many of my patients have chronic diseases, which means I get to develop long-standing relationships with them and their families. I enjoy teaching them about their disease so they become a partner in their health care decisions.
Specialties and clinical expertise
The branch of medicine a provider practices and their areas of focus
I’ve been caring for people with a wide spectrum of blood cancers and other blood-related problems since 1983. In that time, there have been major developments in our ability to both diagnose and treat blood disorders. For example, there have been huge advances in how we molecularly characterize a disease, or how we detect chromosomal and DNA abnormalities associated with the disease. This has translated into more effective targeted therapies in general, and more appropriate therapies for individual patients, because we understand more about their particular disease. SCCA is on the leading edge of these advances with both our laboratory research and our clinical trials. My specialty is working with people who have cytopenias, or low blood counts, and bone marrow failure or dysregulation, which can cause too few or too many blood cells. These diseases include myelodysplastic syndromes (bone marrow problems leading to low levels of blood cells in your bloodstream) and myeloproliferative diseases (bone marrow problems leading to high levels of blood cells in your bloodstream), particularly polycythemia vera and essential thrombocytosis. My laboratory research focuses on the molecular and cellular events that control red blood cell differentiation (the process where cells become specialized in order to perform different functions), especially how these cells grow and how their differentiation fails in aplastic anemia and myelodysplasia.
What is your approach to caring for a patient?
I’ve had the opportunity to work abroad in many different countries — including eastern Congo, Kashmir, Thailand, Papua New Guinea and Guatemala — and to travel with my family to many more, including Madagascar, Kyrgyzstan, China and Sri Lanka. These experiences have shaped what it means to me to provide high-quality, appropriate care to everyone, including people who come from different backgrounds than mine and who may have different views of illness as well as varying perspectives on life and death. I bring a sensitivity to and appreciation for differences in personal priorities, religion and culture to my relationships with patients.
Harvard Medical School
Beth Israel Hospital, Internal Medicine
University of Washington, Hematology
Medical Oncology, 1983; Hematology, 1982; Internal Medicine, 1980, American Board of Internal Medicine
Member, Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 2017–2021; Elected to the National Academy of Medicine, 2013; President, American Society of Hematology, 2013; Internship, Beth Israel Medical Center